Frank Mattimoe

FRANK MATTIMOE 1892 – 1918

34026 Private Frank Mattimoe, 2nd Battalion, York and Lancaster Regiment was killed in action 18 September 1918 aged about 26.  He is buried at Trefcon British Cemetery, Caulaincourt, France and is commemorated on the Middlesbrough war memorial.[1]

Family Details

Frank was born c.1892, the son of Stephen and Mary Ellen Mattimoe.  There were at least 9 children, all born at Gordon Gill, near Ramshaw:

  • Thomas bc.1891 died in infancy aged 5.
  • James Francis [Frank] bc.1892
  • Ann bc.1894 died in infancy
  • Teresa bc.1895 died in infancy
  • Mary Evaline bc.1897
  • Joseph bc.1898
  • Cornelius bc.1901
  • Timothy bc.1903
  • Thomas bc.1905

In 1891, 23 years old Stephen and Mary lived at Gordon Gill, Ramshaw where Stephen worked as a coal miner.  The family continued to live there until 1911 before they moved to Eldon Lane then Leeholme, near Bishop Auckland.  By 1911, Frank worked as a coal miner [putter].[2]

Frank was the grandson of Thomas and Ann Mattimoe.[3] Thomas was the patriarch of the Mattimoe family who had emigrated from County Sligo, Ireland.  By August 1867, the family lived at Bishop Auckland where Thomas worked as a mason’s labourer.[4]  In the Spring of 1870, the Mattimoes moved to Gordon Gill, near Ramshaw to find work in the pits and remained there for the next 40 years.[5]  Other families of Irish descent already lived here – the Hannon’s, the Gaffney’s, the Cox’s and Tarbert’s to such effect that Gordon Gill was known locally as “Little Ireland”.[6]

In October 1911, difficult trading conditions in the coal industry resulted in a stoppage at Railey Fell pit, Ramshaw and consequently, many families moved from the area including Thomas’ sons John and Stephen.  With their families, they moved to Eldon Lane east of Bishop Auckland in search of pit work, probably at Auckland Park Colliery.[7]  On moving to Eldon Lane, Stephen’s son Frank found work as a barman.  He and Lucy Daykin of Eldon Lane had a son, John Edward Daykin born 2 December 1913.  They did not marry and Frank was instructed to pay a maintenance allowance.[8]  Frank moved to Middlesbrough and eventually married Hannah Smith in July 1917 at St. Patrick’s Church, Middlesbrough.  Hannah gave birth to a daughter Esther, 25 September 1916.  Frank and Hannah’s home address was given as 4 Thorpe Street, Middlesbrough.[9]

Service Details

24 November 1915:  Frank Mattimoe enlisted aged 23 years 7 months, then living at 10 Duncombe Street, Middlesbrough.  He worked as a barman. [10]  He underwent a medical examination and evidently suffered, “slight flat feet” but was found to be fit for service at home and abroad.  He stood 5’9” tall, weighed 154lbs.[11]  Stephen Mattimoe was recorded as his next of kin living at West Avenue, Bishop Auckland.[12] Later, his address is given as 6 Cambridge Street, Leeholme.[13]

24 February 1916: appointed unpaid Lance Corporal. [Regimental number 25251?][14]

29 July 1916: at Gosforth Park neglect of duty when acting company orderly corporal – severely reprimanded. [15]

29 September 1916: promoted to Corporal

6 August 1917: deprived of rank for striking a private soldier. [16]

Frank served at home with the 81st Training Reserve Battalion for a period of 1 year 332 days.

18 October 1917: embarked at Folkestone for France and the Western Front. [17]

19 October 1917: disembarked at Boulogne, France.

19 October 1917: joined 14th Reserve Infantry Battalion at Etaples.

22 October 1917: Private Frank Mattimoe was transferred to York and Lancaster Regiment [Y & L Regt.] and posted to 2nd Battalion, regimental number 34026.

The 2nd Battalion, York and Lancaster Regiment came under the orders of the 16th Brigade, 6th Division which landed in France 10 September 1914. It was a Regular Army unit which saw much action during 1914, 1915, 1916 and the Battle of Hill 70 during 1917.  Its pre-war ranks were soon depleted and drafts were supplied regularly throughout the war.  The 16th Brigade, by October 1917 consisted of the following units:

  • 1st Bn, the Buffs
  • 1st Bn., the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry
  • 2nd Bn., the York and Lancaster Regt.
  • 8th Bn., the Bedford Regt.
  • 16th Bn., Machine Gun Company
  • 16th Trench Mortar Battery

Later, in 1917, the Division was involved in the Cambrai Operations, France.  It saw action during the German 1918 Spring Offensive and later in the year, the Allies counter attack, what is now called, “The 100 Days to Victory”. [18]

20 November – 3 December 1917: The Battle of Cambrai: A Summary

There were 3 phases:

  • 20 – 21 November: The British Tank Attack
  • 23 – 28 November: Capture of Bourlon Wood
  • 30 November – 3 December: German Counter Attacks

In popular mythology, the Battle of Cambrai ranks as one of the most thrilling episodes of the whole war – at last, tanks came into their own and the notion that the Hindenburg Line was impregnable was exploded.  However, the early success was not capitalised upon and the German counter attack regained much land and even captures areas previously held by the British.  Cambrai was an important railhead which lay at the junction of railways connecting Douai, Valenciennes and Saint-Quentin.  Also, it was an important HQ and billeting town. As a military target, its capture would deny the enemy of a key part of their communication system.  As usual, the offensive was preceded by an artillery bombardment – 1000 guns and howitzers firing 900,000 rounds of shells opened up 6.10am, 20 November but the secret weapon was the 476 Mark IV tanks, the entire strength of the Tank Corps.  On the right the 12th (Eastern) Division moved forward.  The 20th (Light) Division, the 6th Division, the 51st (Highland) Division, the 62nd (2nd West Riding) Division and the 36th (Ulster) Division moved forward.  The 6th Division crossed the Hindenburg Line and captured Ribecourt and fought as far as and through Marcoing.  The 5th Cavalry advance through them but were repulsed at Noyelies.

27 November, the Third Army closed down offensive operations and units were ordered to consolidate.  30 November, the German Army struck back.  On the right flank, the break into the British positions was swift – the defending 55th (West Lancashire) Division and much of the 12th (Eastern) and 20th (Light) Divisions evaporated.  By 9.00am, the Germans had penetrated almost 3 miles towards Havrincourt Wood and the Third Army faced disaster.

3 December, Haig ordered a retirement.  The plan had failed and although some ground had been gained, a small salient remained at Flesquires in an exposed position but some ground had been lost to the advancing enemy.

2nd Battalion, York and Lancaster Regiment in action [19]

The battalion took up position on the night of 19/20 November and 2 platoons were sent into No-Man’s Land to establish an outpost to prevent any German patrols reaching British lines.  The artillery bombardment commenced at 6.20am.  After 2 hours fighting the battalion reached the Hindenburg Line, captured all objectives and were consolidating positions.  Casualties were light.

22 November, heavy German shelling in the morning and 2 quiet days before the battalion was relieved and withdrew to the Support Line.

30 November, early morning heavy enemy shelling and at 10.00am news came through that the Germans had broken through the British line.  The battalion was ordered to withdraw and prepare a defensive line on the right.

1 December, exchanges took place and the battalion was ordered to attack Quentin Ridge but made little progress, returned to their positions and suffered the following casualties – 2 officers killed, 4 wounded and 65 ORs killed, wounded or missing including Private F. Mattimoe who suffered a mild gunshot wound [GSW] to the forearm.  He was admitted to 5 Casualty Clearance Station then onto 56 General Hospital 3 December.  By 5 December, he had been sent to the depot and 16 December, he re-joined his battalion.

Between 20 November and 8 December, British losses of dead, wounded and missing amounted to 44,207.  Of these, approx. 6,000 had been taken prisoner.  German losses were estimated at 45,000.  The battle ended in stalemate.  Between these date, later research confirmed that 2/Y.&L. Regt. lost 4 Officers and 31 ORs killed in action or died of wounds.[20]

5 February 1918: Private F. Mattimoe was found guilty of another misdemeanour [unspecified] and was sentenced to Field punishment no.1 – 7 days.

The German Spring Offensive: A Summary

3 March, Soviet Russia made peace with Germany and her allies by virtue of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk.  As a result, Germany could now transfer troops from the Eastern Front to the Western Front.  More importantly, these Divisions included the original elite of the German Army – the Guards, Jaegers, Prussians, Swabians and the best of the Bavarians. In all, 192 Divisions could be deployed in the West.  The Allies could field 178 Divisions. [21]  A single division numbered about 19,000 men. [22]  Ludendorff could call upon about 3,650,000 men as opposed to the Allies 3,380,000.  Thus, the Germans now held superiority in numbers.

The German High Command needed victory to be gained before the American Forces arrived in Europe in huge numbers.  America entered the war 6 April 1917 and in the July, Pershing General of the Armies of the United States asked for an army of 3 million men.  The first of her troops arrived in France 26 June 1917.[23] The training and build-up of troops obviously took time but eventually by June 1918, the Americans were receiving about 250,000 men a month in France.  This amounted to 25 divisions in or behind the battle zone and another 55 in the United States ready to join the action.[24]

Elsewhere in the Alliance, the French were able to draw on a new annual class of conscripts after a year of inactivity but the British were worn down by continuous fighting during the summer of 1917 with major offensives at Arras, Messines, Passchendaele and Cambrai.[25]  The strength of the British infantry had fallen from 754,000 in July 1917 to 543,000 in June 1918 producing a manpower crisis.[26]

21 March 1918:  the German Offensive was launched.  There were 5 phases: [27]

  • 21 March – 5 April: Operation Michael, against the British, the Battle of Picardy (otherwise known as the First Battle of the Somme 1918)
  • 9 – 11 April: Operation Georgette, against the British, the Battle of Lys near Armentieres
  • 27 April: Operation Blucher-Yorck, against the French sector along Chemin des Dames, the Third Battle of Aisne
  • 9 June: Operation Gneisenau, against the French sector between Noyan and Montdider, the Battle of the Matz
  • 15 – 17 July: Operation Marne-Rheims, the final phase known as the Second Battle of the Marne.

The Germans enjoyed spectacular territorial gains particularly during the initial phases of the offensive.  23 March, the Kaiser declared a “victory holiday” for German schoolchildren.

The cost in manpower was enormous:

  • Between 21 March and 10 April the 3 main assaulting armies lost 303,450 men – 1/5th of their original strength.
  • The April offensive against the British in Flanders was eventually computed to have cost 120,000 men out of a total of 800,000.[28]

The German High Command calculated that it required 200,000 replacements each month but only 300,000 recruits stood available taking into account the next annual class of 18-year olds.  There were 70,000 convalescents available from hospitals each month but even counting them, the strength of the German Army had fallen from 5.1 million to 4.2 million men in the 6 months of the offensive.  It could not be increased on the estimated scale required. [29]

To add to this dilemma, in June 1918, the first outbreak of “Spanish Flu” laid low nearly 500,000 German soldiers.  This epidemic was to reoccur in the autumn and wreak havoc throughout Europe and the wider world.[30]

Added to this the poor diet of the German troops, battle fatigue, discontentment with the military leadership, social unrest at home and a general realisation that their great effort was beginning to wane, the Allies counter attack in mid-July began to seize the initiative.  Sweeping victories over demoralised German forces eventually led to the resignation of Ludendorff 27 October, the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II 9 November and the signing of the Armistice 11 November 1918. [31]

The 6th Division was involved in much action as follows:

  • 21 – 23 March: The Battle of St Quentin, part of First Battles of the Somme 1918
  • 17 – 19 April: The First Battle of Kemmel Ridge and 25 – 26 April: The Second Battle of Kemmel Ridge, known as the Battles of the Lys
  • 18 August – 6 September: The Advance in Flanders
  • 18 September: The Battle of Epehy – a phase of the Battles of the Hindenburg Line

2nd Battalion, York and Lancaster Regiment in action [32]

In February, the battalion was brought up to strength of about 1000 with drafts of 11 officers and 221 ORs.  The battalion was posted at Lagnicourt on the 21 March when at 5.00am the German barrage hit the area behind the battalion HQ then from 7.30am to 9.00am, the front and reserve lines were hit.  In one company only 15 ORs survived.  The remnants of the battalion were driven back to Vaulx Morchies.  The next day, the remaining 250 men and those of another battalion were ordered to attack Vaulx Wood but enemy machine guns prevented any such action.  They were ordered to withdraw and dig in along the ridge Longeast Wood to Achiet-le-Grand Bapaume Railway.  The enemy had broken through at Mory.  On the 24th the battalion was relieved and left the battlefield to head by rail to Rousebrouge.  40% of the battalion was lost – 24 officers and 391 ORs killed, wounded or missing.  Between 21 – 23 March, later research confirmed that 2/Y.&L. Regt. lost 1 Officer and 104 ORs killed in action or died of wounds.[33]

The next action saw 2/Y & L Regt. around Ypres in April and May and fortunately recorded “only a few casualties”.  The Battle of Amiens in early August saw the turning of the tide in what Ludendorff described as, “a black day”.  The 6th Division did not participate in this action being located to the north on the Ypres Salient.  There was the usual shelling by both sides with 8 men being killed and 25 wounded on 16 August.  Five days later, 21 August 1918 Private Frank Mattimoe wounded in action, GSW to chest and he was admitted to 17 Field Ambulance.  The wound was slight because he re-joined 2nd Bn., Y & L Regt., 24 August.

1st September, the battalion was moved south to Amiens and prepared for an attack on St. Quentin set for the 18th September.  The Battalion War Diary reports as follows.[34]

“About 3pm the battalion moved to assembly positions just west of St. Quentin Wood and took cover in the wood until midnight…moved forward to assembly positions SE of Badge Copse…whilst in these assembly positions…the companies were shelled considerably with high explosive and gas…At 5.20am under a splendid creeping barrage the battalion moved forward to attack…the entire objective allotted to the battalion…the line of Douai Trench, Champagne Trench and Fresnoy Trench…were captured…at 6.30am.   At 10.00am a determined counter attack was delivered…from the direction of Fresnoy Cemetery and Wood.  This counter attack succeeded in driving our left company back into Champagne Trench.  Mainly on account of casualties suffered during the advance, the left company was too weak to counter attack…As a result of these operations about 50 prisoners were captured and many enemy left dead.  The casualties suffered during the advance, by the battalion were:

Officers Killed 3 Wounded 2 Missing 1

Other Ranks Killed 27 Wounded 140 Missing 43”

Private F. Mattimoe was killed in action 18 September 1918.  His company had faced stiff opposition from Fresnoy Cemetery and Wood.  Between 18 & 19 September 1918, later research confirmed that 2/Y.&L. Regt. lost 4 Officers and 50 ORs killed in action or died of wounds.[35]

Private F. Mattimoe had served a total of 2 years 299 in the army, 332 days [almost 11 months] overseas in France and Belgium.[36]  He fought in 3 major battles, been wounded twice and paid the ultimate sacrifice.  Private F. Mattimoe was awarded the British War and Victory medals.[37]

Later, the 6th Division was to be involved in the pursuit to the Selle and The Battle of the Selle.  At the Armistice on 11 November 1918, the Division was billeted around Bohain. It was selected to march into Germany as part of the occupation force and began to move 14-18 November to Solre-le-Chateau to assemble. The Division crossed the German border on 13 December and reached its destination at Bruehl on 23 December.


Private F. Mattimoe is buried at grave reference D.20, Trefcon British Military Cemetery, west of St. Quentin, France. [38]  Philip Lees wrote as follows:[39]

“On a warm, sunny October day in 2002, eighty-four years after the battle, I visited the cemetery.  Frank’s grave is in the front row flanked by those of his comrades from the Yorks and Lancs Regiment and soldiers of the Durham Light Infantry who also fell in the action to retake the two villages.  Frank’s name has been spelt Mattimore as it has on the war memorial in Middlesbrough.”

And what of Frank’s family?  Philip continues:

“Frank’s wife Hannah received notification of her husband’s death in a letter dated 7th October.  Hannah subsequently visited Frank’s family and in their shared sadness was insistent they keep contact with Frank’s daughter Esther.  Hannah kept her word.  Cornelius and his brother Tommy would travel to Middlesbrough, a difficult journey in those days and bring Esther back to Leeholme foe holidays from the age of 4 until she was 15 years old and able to make the journey on her own.  Esther became particularly close to her cousin Mary, daughter of Cornelius.  When I met Mary in 2003 she spoke fondly of Esther and said that they were more like sisters than cousins and had stayed close until Esther’s death earlier that year.  Hannah married again [a Mr. Conroy][40] but that did not alter her commitment to Frank’s family.” [41]


Middlesbrough War Memorial

Private Frank Mattimoe [spelt Mattimore] is commemorated on the Middlesbrough War Memorial[42] located at the entrance to Albert Park, Park Road, Middlesbrough.  There are 3137 names inscribed on the cenotaph.[43]





[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission Note: His name is spelt Mattimore.

[2] 1891, 1901 & 1911 census

[3] “Little Ireland: a family journey from Co. Sligo to Co. Durham” 2004 Philip Lees p.66 Note: Thomas Mattimoe & Ann Gaffney were married 22 January 1855 at Ardcarne, Co. Roscommon, Ireland

[4] Lees p.72 and p.75 Note: the first record of Thomas Mattimoe and his family were living in Bishop Auckland was the register of the birth of his 4th son Peter in August 1867.

[5] Lees p.98

[6] Lees p.76 – 78

[7] Lees p.131

[8] Lees p.148, Descriptive Report on Enlistment & Army Form B.282

[9] Army Form W.5?? & Descriptive Report on Enlistment

[10] Army Form B.2505 & B.103

[11] Army Form B.178

[12] Descriptive Report on Enlistment

[13] Army Form W.5??

[14] Army Form B. ?21 Conduct Sheet

[15] Army Form B. ?21 Conduct Sheet

[16] Army Form B. ?21 Conduct Sheet

[17] Army Form B.103 Casualty Form – Active Service


[19] Lees p.148 – 151 Note: Philip researched the action using FM’s service details and the Battalion War Diary and provides a detailed account.

[20] Officers Died in the Great War [ODGW] & Soldiers Died in the Great War [SDGW]

[21] “The Somme” Hart p.421

[22] CWGC


[24] Hart p.437


[26] Hart p.437

[27] Hart p.426 & timeline

[28] Hart p.435

[29] Hart p.439

[30] Hart p.438

[31] timeline

[32] Lees p.152 – 157

[33] ODGW & SDGW

[34] Lees p.157-159

[35] ODGW & SDGW

[36] Military History Sheet

[37] Medal Roll Card Index

[38] CWGC

[39] Lees p.159

[40] CWGC

[41] Lees p.159